is a pharmacy shop. On this day, I learned that every town we visited in Ukraine
had at least one or more APTEKA. We
left the hotel to find the pharmacy.
At the far end of Vinnitsa, we finally found one.
When I entered the store, the pharmacist stood behind a glass
counter filled with many medicines. As I began to tell her my ailments,
I found she was a well-trained physician.
She, of course, did not know the brand name Tylenol, and yet by
explaining that I was looking for NON-ASPIRIN tablets, she understood
what I needed. We were very
impressed with the facility and the quality of the APTEKA – this
gave us relief in that it was likely we would need a pharmacy again as
we continued traveling the country.
As far as the pharmacy, Ukraine was as good as any other Western
Now we were able to concentrate
on our trip today since everything seemed to be going well, but we
immediately encountered some trouble. We encountered a bit of intensity
when the DAI stopped us as we were leaving the city limits.
It was, however, less troublesome
that we imagined – the DAI only checked Vlad’s passport and once
checked we passed through the checkpoint safely.
As we were residents of US who were not accustomed being
investigated by machinegun-carrying enforcement personnel, I could not
help but think about what may await us in the future.
It was a day that had had an
unexpected beginning which caused me to remain cautious about what could
not at this time!"
According to the map, the
distance between Vinnitsa and Litin is 32Kilometers. There was a time
when I would run the San Francisco Marathon every year and did so for 20
year. Accordingly, I can sense exactly the distance represented by 32
Kilometers. A marathon is
41.91Kilometers. It may
sound a little cavalier but the distance is not that far away. In other
words, I could run the distance between Vinnitsa and Litin and using my
personal best, it would take me 2hours.
Those names listed in the map
that I had memorized all existed, why wouldn’t they exist - it would
not make sense otherwise. But, it was still so exciting to me to find
the towns on the map showing up exactly in their proper order as we
drive down the road. I had
only learned the names using the map and not by actually seeing the
towns. I was simply amazed with the fact that the map depicted the
My mind worked as if I were so
afraid to miss anything; it was absolutely essential that my eyes
register everything with out fail. Eyes of mind hungered for all that
appeared in view. Any sight
I would not remember disturbed me for that would be my failing forever.
I kept my camcorder camera
running. The fields on both sides of the state highway appeared to be
filled with sugar beets, the major crop of Podolia; a key ingredient in
a familiar dish we usually associate with our Thanksgiving banquet.
Beet salad, in fact, is one of
Heidi’s favorite dishes. All
of a sudden, I heard Heidi request that we stop the car so she could
touch the sugar beets – the vegetable, she said, of her family.
I panicked – we were just seconds away from Litin –
the place I had dreamed of seeing for so long.
Even many weeks after this
episode, Heidi was still laughing at my reaction to her request -
obviously I acted so strangely then.
‘You didn’t sound like
yourself, Norimi’, Heidi kept saying. ‘You yelled at me saying,
In my family I am always the
subordinate one. I have
never told her “No.”, as far back as my memories serves me.
If I did, it would have been the first and last incident in our
life. I must confess,
however, I had no recollection of this incident of telling her “No”. “Did I really say that?” I responded whenever she brought
up the conversation.
I would have found out she was
right upon our return to the US as I played the camcorder video on out
TV monitor. Our conversations were clearly recorded in the video and I
heard my own voice yelling frantically,
“No, Heidi, not at this time
Shame on me.
I will not be allowed to forget this incident my entire life!
I saw a sing read “Sarovoe”, I sensed
it would be Litin coming up next. I was wrong at this time for there was
one little village that was not listed in my map. But it was just the
matter of time, and there, I saw the town sign read “Litin.”
On the right hand side of the state highway, there were
two signs, one built by the city welcoming the motorists and another,
which was just a green sign, provided by the state.
lay Litin indeed.
The town of my fantasy proved to be a real town in which
Heidi’s great grandparents resided until they immigrated to the US
with their children. Navigating with only one official record where
“Litin” was listed in the ship manifest found at the Ellis Island
records, three years later we are standing on that very land.
Heidi appeared to be quite fascinated, too.
I thought our first mission was
to understand the town and gain our bearings and sense of direction
including marking the locations of major buildings.
Since our plan was to commute into Litin each day this week, we
did not need to begin our detailed research today. It was difficult but
I disciplined myself not to start interviewing people and taking
pictures; I asked Vlad to just drive around the major streets until we
had a idea of where everything was.
We drove along the state highway
into the town. The street
was named “Lenin” which appeared to be the main street.
It made sense that such a major road ran through the center of
town. We passed a large public park where some official looking tall and
big concrete buildings stood, upon which flew the nation’s flag.
In the park, there were some heroic statues and portraits
displayed on a large billboard type sign.
Those buildings appeared to be official buildings possibly a city
hall and or a memorial hall. And
still standing was a statue of a man familiar even to us,
Though we entered at the eastern
entrance, the road soon started to turn toward the right.
There were some narrow streets leading west and yet they all were
minor streets. I sensed the
road would lead us toward the northwest exit of Litin.
We also passed a crowded market
where various merchants displayed their merchandise.
For ten minutes, we cruised for 8 kilometers then parked the car
at the end of the town. We
saw the endless state highway reaching in front of us.
This road should be bound to Lechetev.
On the corner of the small road, which ran northeast to
southwest, we got out of the car. In
front of me stood a peculiar looking bus stop decorated with tiles in a
I should have returned to the
eastern entrance once more to confirm the view we saw, however, I was
unable to control my curiosity any longer. I began taking photographs
and videos as well as engage in conversation with the local people.
What surprised me was that the peoples we tried to speak with
were not as friendly as others had been in previous towns. They appeared hesitant to respond to any of our questions.
At least, however, we were able
to locate the Jewish cemetery from our queries. But the locals were not
enthusiastic talking with us for whatever reason; they were either too
busy or were not familiar with foreigners.
Vlad suggested regrouping to
amend our plan. I became rather pessimistic by our encounters with the
unfriendly Litiners. We all went back to the car and drove back to the
downtown areas. We passed the market and among the stores we found a
post office. I had an idea so I suggested to Vlad that he park the car
behind the post office. We walked inside the post office.
As I guessed, there were some
souvenirs displayed inside. We
purchased some post cards, envelops, postage stamps and stationery and
proceeded to ask the storekeeper some questions.
I had understood that there was an old section and a newly
developed section. Where was the old section in the town? Was there an
old residential district for Jewish people? And was there an old big
church or cathedral? And etc, etc… we were asking those questions,
just customers who had just bought some merchandise. Surely we deserved
some attention? I was
right. Now, we were getting
There was a reason why we asked the question about a
cathedral. I remembered a story told by one of the members of the Pervin
family that the Litin Pervin group lived near a large church, that is, a
church not a temple.
Consequently, I interpreted this to mean a Russian Orthodox
I thought the large cathedral might lead us to the location of
the Pervin house.
As I expected, the question
brought a positive answer. We
were told a huge cathedral once existed but had been demolished and yet
now the town was in the process of rebuilding it on the old site. Great;
we needed to know where is it then? The answer was in the main park -
the one we had passed by earlier. We
went back to the car and drove to the park, but it was too big to find
the so-called construction sight. We were lost.
Vlad and I saw three men who were
talking in the middle of an intersection.
We slowed down and stopped the car near them and spoke from the
window. Vlad asked if they
know the location of the construction site for the old cathedral.
I thought it was a simple question.
And yet we did not hear a simple answer.
We were now subjected to their
inquiries. The conversation became intense. Our middle-aged interrogator
with sharp eye contact was asking why we wanted to know this. Now he was
asking us a simple question, “What for?”
At this point, I sensed they were
very suspicious of us for some reason.
Speaking in English, I told Vlad to tell them directly that we
came all the way from America to search for the old house of our family
who had once lived near the cathedral.
It was to our
advantage that we came from the United States. The suspicious look of
our inquisitor suddenly relaxed and he began to direct us to the
cathedral site by his outstretched hand. His face again showed his
distrust when I made a big mistake. I already stated in the previous
pages that we brought some cartons of “Camel” cigarettes to use as
souvenirs. In my stupidity, I offered a couple of “Camel” packets as
an offering of gratitude by simply handing them to the gentleman from
the car window. It was too
late by the time I noticed Vlad signaling me “Don’t.”
I saw the man’s face
stiffened. He asked, “What are they?”
I explained they were American cigarettes. He pursued his
questioning, “Why should I accept the cigarettes?” It was then that
I realized that I had made a mistake. I had offended him with the
offering. By pulling my ‘gift’ back through the window while
apologizing to the man, we quickly drove away from the scene.
While living in the US
for the past 40 years, I became quite accustomed to distributing
presents. I had forgotten that such an action might offend people under
certain circumstances. Vlad
lectured me afterwards explaining how the people in Podolia were very
proud people; it would be shameful if they were to take a gift without
It was not the last
time we would see this man. After
passing two or three blocks, we arrived at a spot, which was only a
5-minute walk from where we were. We were lost again and found no
pathway leading to the city square where the statue of Lenin stood.
After driving a few times on the same road, we saw the same man;
he held his arms above his shoulders gesturing for us to come his
direction. Driving towards him, we saw the construction site of the
cathedral – no wonder we could not find it – just the
foundation had been built at this stage.
What surprised us most was that the man to whom I had earlier
offered the cigarettes was actually the state inspector for the
His name was Sasha. I
was so embarrassed to see him again – I wanted to dig myself into
a hole and hide. (There
was, in fact, a big hole in front of me due to the lack of maintenance
of the road). One more big surprise – Sasha was now a different
person - he was kind, gentle and even friendly.
As if we were his long
time friends, he introduced us to the engineers – a crew of around
5. He even summoned some if the neighbors who lived near asking them if
they knew of any early history of the town.
A few of them stated that there once stood a
pair of large dwellings adjacent to each other only ten meters away from
the construction site.
The episode about the
residents of Pervins was told as follows:
Leib and Schandel had
fourteen children. The
brother of Leib, Israel and his wife had six children. Both families of
Leib and Israel lived in the adjacent houses with more than ten servants
between them. There was a big cathedral standing near by their home.
I realized my voice
was quivering as I spoke. We were told that the houses were still
standing, albeit vacant, for quite a while until the 1960s when the city
hall was built next to them on the same site. They said that we might be
able to see photographs if we were to find the early ones of the
renovated city hall.
suggested we visit the city’s museum but it was Saturday, and as it
was in the afternoon, the museum was closed. We stood in the open space
where once was the Pervin resident and fantasized the day of one hundred
years past within the wild weeds overtaking the space.
It appeared to be a large tract of land.
We were anxious for Monday to arrive to begin our search of the
map on the left shows the birds eye view of Litin. Click on the names of
each building to view them more closely.
Family Myth About Sugar Beets Factory
is a tale told among the Pervin family for a number of generations.
One of those tales is about how a member of the Pervin family
obtained first-class Russian citizenship despite the fact that Jews were
considered second-class citizens. Most importantly, the family owned a large parcel of land,
thought to be quite unusual for Jews of this time. This was made
possible by the first generation of Leib Nicholiavitsi, who served with
the military for a life-long assignment.
It was Leib Nikoliavitshi who earned the rights to first-class
citizenship and accordingly was awarded all the rights of this
citizenship by the Tsar including the ownership of land.
However, none of his family had any documentation of the exact
location of the property. Israel Samuil, the younger brother to Leib
Yahuda remembered the name of the factory called “Loznansk Sackerine”
and yet no one could explain if this represented an individual or a
guess was that the land existed somewhere between Bagrinovtsy, the
birthplace of the Pervins and Litin, a town recorded as the last
residence of the family. An episode as told by Samuil’s family
the sunset of every Sabbath, the owner of the factory, the oldest Pervin
son, Leib and the factory manager, Samuil, the second son were
accustomed to returning home from the factory on foot.
Their families, half way with a picnic of food and tea, met the
brothers. According to the map, the distance between Bagrinovtsy and
Litin is less than 16 K, that means the adults can walk the distance in
a couple of hours. In the
time before the revolution, one can imagine how the workday began as
early as four O’clock in the morning continued to seven O’clock in
the evening. If their
traveling time lasted less than one hour, they would have most likely
commuted daily – but instead they commuted weekly.
requested Vlad to ask Litiners the whereabouts to any sugar beet
factories operated around the town of Bagrinovtsy. Initially, no one
could remember any such factories. I knew there were at least 50
factories listed at the state registration office in Vinnitsa. It was
puzzling to think about no factories while the horizon was full of sugar
beet fields on both sides of the state highway.
a time, a bunch of Litiners recollected a sugar beets factory operating
at the south section of Litin. Some
of them remembered that the
factory was constructed sometime around the 1920’s. The factory I was
looking for would have been operating for two generations before than
Leib in 1920. 1920 appeared to be too recent of a factory but we decided
to visit the factory none-the-less.
was surprised and pleased that Sasha offered to take us to the factory
site. Sasha sat in the car next to Vlad while Heidi and I sat behind
him. He no longer acted like a stranger and behaved as though he
had been long acquainted with us. It
may take a while but once trust is developed, friendships are quickly
made. I felt by accident, we traveled back in time to an ancient world
where strangers would kindly help each other.
the way to this unknown sugar beets factory, Vlad and Sasha were
enjoying a discussion on the upcoming presidential election in October.
My impression about the people around here reminded me of the
people in Texas, who maintained strong sense of pride and self respect
about themselves and who always were ready to challenge the central
administrative power. Listening to Sasha, I perceived him to be a
I was listing to the Ukrainians’ political discussion, I could not
help wondering if we had traveled too far south.
We should have traveled for thirty minutes and yet we still had
not arrived at the destination. I interrupted the conversation between
Vlad and Sasha and asked if we should have already arrived at our
destination. I heard Sasha
saying to Vlad that it was farther south.